Saturday, June 6, 2009

Water, Water, Everywhere

How idyllic.

A peaceful pond in a lush green pasture. (The girls were in eating breakfast, or I'm sure they would have wanted to be in the photo as well.)

But disaster lurks in the shadows.
Just at the edge of the pond, above Sandy's head, you will please note the white pvc discharge pipe that empties the irrigation system in the fall, before freezing temperatures (the pond is at the lowest part of the system).
Here is what the shut-off valve looked like last night, when I went to see why there wasn't any pressure in the system: valve shut, pipe wide open.
In fact, the "pond" is not supposed to be full of water yet. I'm still digging it out. Then I have to build a little rail-road-tie drop jump on the south edge (this will also protect the exposed drain pipe). This will eventually be part of a water jump/trail horse obstacle.

But this is the second time this year (already) that the pond has been full. Last week I went out at 5:00 AM to move my sprinklers, and found a geyser shooting up: the cam-lock holding my huge 100 foot radius impact sprinkler to the top of this riser had let go, and the sprinkler head was lying in two feet of water, fresh from the Cascade Mountains (via the irrigation ditch). I waded in to retrieve it, and didn't warm up the rest of the day!

Every year since we moved here I have dreaded the beginning of irrigation season--in spite of the wonderful green-ness it brings to the farm. I put off starting my system, with the rationalization that the local farmers need to get a jump start on their hay crop. But, in reality, it's because every year we face some sort of major repair or another upon start-up.

The first year after we installed the sprinklers (when we bought the place it had a gravity flow, gated-pipe system, that had it's own issues), I ended up digging up 60 feet or so of buried pipe that I hadn't gotten drained adequately the fall before (a little slump in the land allowed it to trap water), and the freeze-thaw of winter temps had totally exploded the entire length.

First thing this year: the hand-powered priming pump wouldn't draw water up to the main 7 horse power pump. I had to take it apart three times before I got the diaphragm set into it just right!

Most of the risers are in fence-lines, to help protect them from horse-play (literally). Those not in a fence have the stacked-tires-filled-with-rocks-and-sand base shown above. This post managed to hit the 2 inch supply pipe dead-on, and has been leaking for several years, but not enough to inspire me to dig it up and patch the pipe.

Unfortunately, the leak has now undermined the dirt, and there is a hoof-eating hole the size of a basketball.
Last week a riser broke loose from it's supporting post and bent itself over so far that it snapped off...right at the T-fitting on the 3 inch main-line! Major digging and repair job.

So we've only had the system going for maybe two weeks. I haven't even managed to complete the full circuit of sprinklers (about a mile's worth, sprinklers every 100 feet). And I've already had to shut down three times, for a day or more each time--to get parts, or simply to make time after school (and find the energy) to do the fix-ups.
Once we get the kinks out, the system usually functions pretty well, barring horse damage. It has lots of advantages over the gravity fed system, which did not have enough "drop" in it to get water to the south 4-5 acres (out of 13), so it was dry and weed packed. That hillside is what you saw in the background of the very first pond picture of this post, so you see that all the headaches are worth it, in the end.

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